The turn to chillier temperatures reminds us all that there’s so much to look forward to in the wintertime at New York State Parks. One of our favorite winter phenomena are the ice volcanoes that form along the eastern end of Lake Erie shoreline. During cold weather, waves splash against the shore where the spray and slush form cone-shaped ice sculptures. In the middle of the cone is an open vent. As long as Lake Erie has open water, the waves roll under the ice volcanoes and are channeled through the vents. Water explodes into the sky as much as 30 feet high, increasing the height of the ice cone. When Lake Erie freezes over the ice volcano vents freeze shut and they become “inactive ice volcanoes.” At Evangola State Park, naturalists lead school and public groups to see the amazing ice volcanoes and ice sculptures that are a rare phenomenon found only on a few of the Great Lakes.
featured image is of park patrons in an ice cave, another unusual ice formation along the Lake Erie shoreline at Evangola State Park, photos and post by Dave McQuay.
The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is one of few insects active during the winter months, and so now is the perfect time to be on the lookout for this tiny invader. Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is an invasive insect native to Japan. We think it was introduced in the mid-1900s when Japanese ornamental plants became very popular in American gardens. This tiny insect is specific to evergreen hemlock trees (Tsuga spp.), attaching to new branchlets and feeding on the hemlocks starchy liquids. This continuous feeding weakens the trees and can kill it over the course of about six years. HWA has caused the death of millions of hemlocks along the Appalachians, and gray, ghostly forests are moving ever northward into New York.
HWA egg sacs are the most visible form of the insect, seen from October-May, a time when most insect predators are not active. Egg sacs are found on the underside of hemlock branches and look like small, white, fuzzy blobs, like the tip of a cotton swab.
HWA reproduces twice a year, allowing for exponential population growth in a short period of time. NYS Parks is taking an active role in managing new infestations of HWA. Chemical insecticides, applied very specifically to individual hemlocks, are the best method of control. In addition, NYS Parks has released predatory insects as biological controls in several state parks, with the hope they will one day keep HWA populations in check. Parks just hosted two HWA volunteer training events in Western NY to help us determine presence/absence areas.
Now is the perfect time to be on the lookout for HWA. For more information, or to report sightings in NYS Parks, contact email@example.com
A rare denizen of NYS Parks in Long Island is the least tern. This state-threatened species is challenged by both loss of nesting habitat, as well as predation by rats, dogs, cats, and other birds.
The least tern is so named because it is the smallest member of the gull and tern family, growing to a maximum of only nine inches in body length. These beautiful birds make their homes on the Atlantic coast. In the winter, least terns migrate to the southern United States and the Mexican coast, but once it becomes warmer, they return to the beaches of Long Island to nest. Even though they are small, least terns are mighty. If an intruder crosses a nest, the tern will dive at the possible predator screeching to frighten the danger away. Least terns also make a habit to roosting with larger terns for protection.
The importance of Long Island shoreline habitat to least terns, as well as a plethora of other migratory bird species, is the main reason why some Long Island beaches are off limits to dogs. Even where pets are allowed, be conscious of how your dog might be affecting wildlife and protect the habitat of this small, but magnificent bird.
featured image is a pair of least terns, by Larry Master. Post by Paris Harper
It may be some time before we get to see bees and butterflies again, but when spring comes, we know that our friends at Fahnstock State Park will be ready to welcome them back with open arms and bouquets of native flowers. Check out this vibrant post from Native Beeology!
Anne Odell Butterfly Garden – Fahnestock State Park –
In a recent venture to The Hubbard Lodge in Fahnestock State Park, I explored a butterfly garden flourishing with beautiful native flowering plants. The garden was alive with tired butterflies sporting tattered wings, queen bumblebees fattening up for a long winter hibernation, and a diversity of solitary bees finishing up their nests. This garden named the Ann Odell Butterfly Garden was created in 2003 in memory of Ann Odell, an art teacher and gardener. The winding paths in this tranquil place is a fitting tribute, inviting those who enter to explore and discover all things wild and beautiful. Indeed, this garden is much more than a butterfly garden.
Gazebo near the Entrance to the Ann Odell Butterfly garden
Asters and goldenrods
The most notable feature of this autumn garden is the purple New England asters that stand tall in the…